London has fallen (but xenophobia is doing fine) movie review

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In recent times President-in-trouble porn has been getting some attention. The new season of House of Cards sees Frank Underwood in elevated spots of bother, while Sela Ward will soon front the Oval Office’s second attempt to fend off alien invasion in Independence Day: Resurgence. Danny Glover discovered the Mayan calendar was right in 2012.

In a particularly – how do I put this, memorable? – episode of Black Mirror, the head of Her Majesty’s Government in the UK (technically a Prime Minister but we’ll count it) endured live-to-air sodomy with a pig.

In 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, Koreans stormed the White House. Nobody expected that reasonably enjoyable Die Hard-lite would spawn a franchise, but here we have it. The quintessential ‘sequel nobody asked for’.

Gerard Butler returns as the US President’s head bodyguard and Aaron Eckhart as his “get off my plane” style commander-in-chief. London has fallen, but xenophobia is doing fine.

The four screenwriters recast baddies as Middle Eastern terrorists, claiming a few politically incorrect scalps on the way. Perhaps recruiting Iranian-Swedish director Babak Najafi was intended to quell criticism of London Has Fallen as a flag-flying white-guys-being-racist movie.

If so, it didn’t work. The film’s best line (or worst, depending on your point-of-view) is delivered by a typically hot-under-the-collar Butler. He orders one of his many olive-skinned foes to “pack up your shit and go back to Fuckheadistan!”

There are, as they say, no words, other than perhaps to point out that such an atomic blast of international relations chutzpah at least makes the film momentarily interesting. Mostly it’s a rather meek by-the-numbers affair, with a “straight-to-video” feel and more than a few gaps in logic.

Early in the story, during a fitness run with President Asher (Eckhart), Mike (Butler) remarks that he is made “of bourbon and poor choices”. That line doesn’t really work when it’s delivered in a scene showcasing his character’s extreme fitness. Not only is Mike running as he says it; he’s running backwards.

Later, in the thick of it, once terrorist attacks have embroiled London in carnage and endangered the President’s life, Butler sits down in a safe house for a moment of fleeting reprieve. “I don’t know about you but I’m thirsty as fuck,” he says. Then he skulls…a glass of water. What the hell happened to our heroes? Who took their booze away?

After the UK PM dies from a heart attack, world leaders congregate in London for the funeral. Diplomatic hobnobbing does not reward them. Newsreaders declare this “the most protected event on earth” but by god it’s an easy one for terrorists to gatecrash. All they need to do is dress up as cops and hide a bazooka in an ambulance.

Chaos, bloodshed and CGI explosions ensue. Mike and the Prez run around like headless chooks, trying to avoid gunfire and explosions. The hard-bitten protagonist’s wife (Radha Mitchell) is due to have a baby in two weeks, so This Time It’s Personal.

Bafflingly, Najafi wastes almost every supporting cast member who are recruited for the kind of throwaway parts generally assigned to no-name actors. Angela Bassett, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo and Robert Forster barely register a blip on the radar.

Fingers crossed the franchise ends here. An Australian spin-off could theoretically make a guilty pleasure, though “Canberra Has Fallen” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Previously by Luke Buckmaster:

In Defence of Grimsby 

Related stories:

House of Cards is no match on Washington now 

Black Mirror is unsettling television at its best 

2 responses to “London has fallen (but xenophobia is doing fine) movie review

  1. Thank you Luke. What a wonderful service you provide. This explains everything that was puzzling me about the trailer I saw at a distance with no sound, and the bus posters.
    I couldn’t understand how a blatantly American movie could possibly be interested in London exploding … so silly of me.
    (I was afraid to google it, in case google remembered ans started offering me similar movies in my future searches.)
    Anyhow, it looked like it richly deserved the 1.5 stars, from the soundless trailer.

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